OPERATIONS

Early Hanukkah, Late Thanksgiving to Impact Holiday Shopping

BY Bill Martin

Two flukes in the calendar this year will challenge retailers when it comes to holiday revenues. Here is some advice from Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak, on how to maximize opportunities during the shorter selling season.

Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. It’s hard to believe that September is already here — time for retailers to attend to the holiday shopping season. We at ShopperTrak recommend the following ways to prepare for the coming busy months.

> Maximize opportunities during the shorter selling season.

This year, shoppers will have 26 days and four full weekends to make their holiday purchases between Black Friday and Christmas. In 2012, retailers worked with the longest holiday season possible — 32 days and five full weekends. Retailers must adjust operating hours and staffing this holiday season, or risk missing valuable shopper opportunities. As in the past few years, more stores will be open — and stay open longer — on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28). We expect that retail sales will start strong with November’s late Thanksgiving and early Hanukkah (Nov. 27). Hanukkah shoppers will support early season retail sales as they buy gifts throughout November and into early December for the eight-day Festival of Lights. This shopping activity should help to prevent the dip that normally follows Black Friday weekend.

With Christmas falling on a Wednesday, retailers should expect brisk sales the weekend before, on Dec. 21 ("Super Saturday") and Dec. 22. The days following Christmas (Dec. 26-29) will also be strong as consumers rush out to pick up items they didn’t find under their trees. Since these key selling days present the chance to delight customers, we recommend retailers pay extra attention to preparations, including promotions, staffing and merchandising.

> Utilize new information within the store to adjust to changing preferences.

For years, brick-and-mortar retailers have wished to better understand how customers shop their stores — much like how they understand users’ interactions with their websites. How does the traffic flow through the store? Which endcaps cause shoppers to stop and linger? What impact do interactions with store associates have on conversion? This year, retailers can use new tools in gathering opt-out and anonymous data to answer these questions and improve the shopper experience.

The retail technologies of 2013 can utilize Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to provide more insights into shopper behavior. Using this fact-based, anonymous information, retailers can analyze trends to identify hot spots within their stores and reposition merchandise to promote high-margin items. Retailers can employ in-store analytics to gather a fuller understanding of how sales associates are interacting with shoppers. Once retailers confirm their stores’ best practices, they can roll them out across the organization.

> Focus on the shopping experience all year long, not just during the holidays.

Retailers who wait until the holiday season to think about building customer loyalty are too late. Though the holidays may be the busiest time for retail, consumers shop all year. Where they spend their holiday shopping dollars often depends on their previous experiences with the brand. If customers weren’t pleased when they last visited the store, drawing them back will prove difficult, no matter how great the holiday promotion.

During last year’s holiday season, we saw one of the first increases in foot traffic in many years. With shoppers feeling more secure about the economy, they visited more stores. This trend has continued through most of 2013, with many months posting traffic increases compared with 2012. We’ve recently seen an increase in consumer confidence to its highest level since before the recession. Counting and analyzing foot traffic information in each store will help retailers react more quickly and plan more efficiently for these changes in shopper behavior — ultimately, improving the shopping experience.

Retailers, it’s never too early to prepare for the holidays. This year, managing to the calendar shifts and continued focus on providing a good experience will be your store’s secret to success. Create a satisfying shopping experience for customers this holiday season and they are likely to return all year long.

This year, shoppers will have 26 days and four full weekends for shopping between Black Friday and Christmas, compared with 32 days and five weekends last year. Retailers must adjust operating hours and staffing to maximize opportunities during the shorter selling season.

Bill Martin is the founder of ShopperTrak, a leading retail technology company that anonymously counts people, analyzes data and identifies opportunities to increase revenue for retailers, mall developers and entertainment venues (shoppertrak.com).

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Under Armour strengthens senior executive team

BY CSA STAFF

Under Armour is continuing its drive toward domestic and international growth by bolstering its senior executive team. The brand has elevated chief operating officer Kip Fulks to president of product and Henry Stafford to president of North America.

In their new positions, Fulks will further leverage his leadership experience in product, innovation, supply chain and IT, while Stafford will oversee North America wholesale, retail marketing, global retail and global e-commerce.

Under Armour has also added Susie McCabe as SVP, global retail and Jason LaRose as SVP, global e-commerce to its leadership team.

According to the company, Fulks was instrumental in building Under Armour’s operations function. Throughout the years, Fulks expanded his role to include innovation and product. Under his leadership, Under Armour has introduced Armour39, SpeedForm and ColdGear Infrared.

During his tenure at Under Armour, Stafford has played a vital role in driving and implementing the launch of Charged Cotton, Charged Cotton Storm, UA coldblack and Armour Bra.

"I am extremely proud to elevate two outstanding, established leaders within our organization, while also adding great new talent to our executive team," said Kevin Plank, CEO and founder. "Henry Stafford has played an instrumental role in launching our industry’s most innovative apparel platforms, and Kip has provided superior leadership in product development and operations since the brand’s inception and continues to drive game changing technology."

McCabe extensive management experience includes more than 16 years with Ralph Lauren Corporation, including president factory store concepts, where she led the strategic direction and operation of the brand’s factory stores across the U.S. and Europe. In her new role, McCabe will be responsible for Under Armour’s brand house and factory house stores across the U.S. and for the company’s global retail strategy.

LaRose joins Under Armour from Express, where he served as SVP of e-commerce. Prior to Express, LaRose was the VP of multichannel and international, online with Sears. As SVP, global e-commerce at Under Armour, LaRose will oversee the global standard for all online consumer experiences and will be responsible for driving Web business and strategies to further connect with the brand’s core consumer.

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Rue La La enhances mobile app

BY CSA STAFF

Online retailer Rue La La will be leveraging Artisan Mobile’s Artisan Optimize platform to enhance its mobile technology.

"We are excited to be working with Artisan Optimize to directly impact the results of our mobile app," said Gerry McGoldrick, VP, Marketing, Rue La La. "Through their technology we are learning what drives conversions and, more importantly, we are able to make changes quickly and easily to keep consumers engaged."

Artisan Optimize enables real-time A/B testing of existing native mobile applications without the need to write code or submit changes to an app store. According to the company, customers can design tests using its intuitive user interface, see side-by-side comparisons of how different app versions perform and push out permanent updates to users without resubmitting to an app store. Artisan Optimize is also capable of A/B testing more complex areas such as navigation schemes, workflows and business logic.

"Just like we’ve seen with websites, small changes can make a big difference in results when it comes to mobile apps," said Bob Moul, CEO, Artisan. "With Artisan Optimize, we’re taking the guesswork out of evaluating app design and performance, giving our customers deep insights into user behavior and the ability to rapidly iterate designs to drive maximum results."

Artisan Optimize is the first of several products on the Artisan MEM platform. Additional products on the platform include Artisan Analyze, which allows retailers to gain deep insights into user behavior and app usage without coding, and Artisan Personalize, which allows retailers to segment and target audiences with personalized app experiences.

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